In many new situations, parties are separated but there is nothing outlining the debt responsibility. Many clients want immediate action holding the supporting spouse responsible for the debts but in Wake County, there is such a back log with the court system that any immediate relief is a myth.
Here are the 3 rules to keep in mind:
1. You are responsible to any creditor regardless of the divorce so pay your separately titled and joint debts first - not the debt in your spouse's sole name;
2. Any debt incurred, regardless of whose name the debt is in, during the marriage, is generally in the pot to divide. If a car is purchased in your spouse's name and the loan is solely in your spouse's name, it is still a marital debt;
3. If you do not pay debt in your name, your credit will suffer regardless of who benefitted from the debt.
In order to protect your credit and have your bills paid if your spouse is not cooperating, reach out to family and lending institutions to establish a cushion. Take out a small 401(k) loan or establish a line of credit in your separate name.
The best avenue is both parties working together amicably in these short term situations and even having a Family Support Agreement drawn up can be of help. A Family Support Agreement is similar to a Separation and Property Settlement Agreement but it is earmarked as Temporary and outlines the monthly bills with which party must pay pending any permanent resolution.